Gerry Leonidas on teaching typeface design

27 March 2014


Gerry Leonidas


Alexei Vanyashin
Eugene Yukechev


Evgeniya Basyrova

ne of the most pres­ti­gi­ous edu­ca­tion­al es­tab­lish­ments in Eng­land—the Uni­versity of Read­ing—was foun­ded in 1892 and was part of the Uni­versity of Ox­ford be­fore re­ceiv­ing its Roy­al Charter in 1926. A re­cog­nised aca­dem­ic and re­search centre of world im­port­ance, the uni­versity has been con­duct­ing re­search in­to type and ty­po­graphy, among oth­er things, since the early 1960s. A series of de­sign­ers that cur­rently set the bar in the type mar­ket and the pro­fes­sion as a whole can be found among the gradu­ates of the MA Typeface Design course. Read­ing’s strengths, which both em­ploy­ers and pro­spect­ive stu­dents are well aware of, are the in-depth study of the his­tory of ty­po­graphy, de­vel­op­ment of ana­lyt­ic­al design skills, and in­struc­tion in con­struct­ing typefaces that sup­port mul­tiple lan­guages. We in­ter­viewed Uni­versity of Read­ing pro­fess­or and MATD course dir­ect­or Gerry Le­oni­das to find out how they were able to reach such a high level and what is hap­pen­ing on the course today.


Gerry Le­oni­das in class with MATD stu­dents at the Uni­versity of Read­ing.

What are the high­lights of the MA Typeface Design pro­gramme? What is its main idea?

The MATD is foun­ded on the idea that typeface design ex­ists at the junc­tion of design prac­tice, a his­tor­ic­al and tech­no­lo­gic­al en­vir­on­ment, and a cul­tur­al con­text. So, along­side design­ing type­forms, and spe­cify­ing typefaces, our stu­dents dive deeply in­to his­tor­ic­al, cul­tur­al, and tech­nic­al re­search.

Achiev­ing a high level of prac­tic­al skills comes with build­ing a deep­er un­der­stand­ing of how typefaces meet spe­cif­ic de­mands in a range of cul­tures. Above all, it is prob­ably the change in the way of think­ing about design and your own prac­tice. Gradu­ates learn to think more crit­ic­ally about their dis­cip­line and ques­tion the design de­cisions they make—not just for the typeface they work on while at Read­ing, but long after.


MATD stu­dents in class at Read­ing.

High­lights would in­clude reg­u­lar work­shops on scripts, sem­in­ar series from Michael Twyman, lec­tures from James Mosley and the an­nu­al field trip, as well as deeply per­son­al mo­ments of dis­cov­ery and in­sight.

Have there been any changes in the Typeface Design course over the last five years?

The pro­gramme changes every year. There are ex­tern­al factors (where we per­ceive the in­dustry mov­ing to­wards and the dir­ec­tion in which we want to grow) and in­tern­al (the in­terests and per­son­al­it­ies of the stu­dents, and the mix of the vis­it­ing staff).

We have de­veloped a meth­od­o­logy that shows how the tech­no­lo­gic­al, cor­por­ate and cul­tur­al en­vir­on­ments in which typefaces are made have in­flu­enced the in­ter­pret­a­tion of the ori­gin­al, un­der­ly­ing scripts. Our meth­od of typeface de­vel­op­ment takes in­to ac­count the growth of non-Lat­in typeface design as an in­dus­tri­al en­ter­prise in pre-di­git­al and di­git­al en­vir­on­ments. It em­phas­ises the im­pact of type-mak­ing and type­set­ting tech­no­lo­gies on the form of in­di­vidu­al char­ac­ters and—in a broad­er sense—the spe­cif­ics of vari­ous ty­po­graph­ic eras. Fi­nally, we ana­lyse the ten­sion between tra­di­tion and mod­ern­ity in con­tem­por­an­eous visu­al com­mu­nic­a­tion.

Once un­der­stood for the scripts each stu­dent is work­ing on, this meth­od­o­logy can be ap­plied to any script.

A reg­u­lar top­ic of con­ten­tious de­bate at type con­fer­ences is wheth­er de­sign­ers can make qual­ity typefaces for scripts they don’t un­der­stand. You ob­vi­ously think that they can?

This is, un­sur­pris­ingly, noth­ing new: this chal­lenge is cent­ral to the his­tory of typeface design, and grew rap­idly in the second half of the 20th cen­tury. At Read­ing we have re­cords of such dis­cus­sions from the 1960s at least, as well as doc­u­ments that show how people ad­dressed the design prob­lems of un­fa­mil­i­ar scripts. With Fiona Ross we have de­veloped a meth­od­o­logy that builds on these earli­er pro­cesses and is based on a com­bin­a­tion of re­search and script-spe­cif­ic prac­tice. We start with the manu­al found­a­tions of a script, with sens­it­iv­ity to tools and sub­strates and an ana­lys­is of writ­ing prac­tices.

We cor­rel­ate this with re­search in­to the type-mak­ing and type­set­ting tech­no­lo­gies that in­flu­enced the ty­po­graph­ic im­ple­ment­a­tion of the script. For ex­ample, hot-met­al tech­no­logy im­posed lim­it­a­tions in the char­ac­ter sets, the forms of in­di­vidu­al let­ters, and the way forms com­bine (in an auto­mated type­set­ting ma­chine—ed.). This does not ap­ply to today—to re­pro­duce these re­stric­tions would be not only ig­nor­ant, but plain bad design. We then ex­plore the way in which typeface design re­flects the ten­sion between tra­di­tion and mod­ern­ity in visu­al com­mu­nic­a­tion, which is a key con­sid­er­a­tion in typeface design. For ex­ample, the as­so­ci­ations with monoline strokes as “mod­ern” or “tra­di­tion­al” are en­tirely re­l­at­ive to pre­ced­ent and re­gion­al as­so­ci­ations, not in­her­ent in the shape it­self.

Fi­nally, we in­vest­ig­ate typeface design for com­plex ty­po­graphy with­in each script/lan­guage com­bin­a­tion, by ana­lys­ing past and cur­rent pub­lic­a­tions from that com­munity. These con­sid­er­a­tions al­low for a more nu­anced de­vel­op­ment and test­ing en­vir­on­ment, that al­lows tal­en­ted de­sign­ers to cov­er scripts with which they are un­fa­mil­i­ar. While there is al­ways a re­quire­ment for test­ing with nat­ive read­ers, this is much more to­wards the end of the de­vel­op­ment pro­cess than people tend to think.

Do stu­dents of­ten ex­press will­ing­ness to design Cyril­lic? How do you find the over­all level of Cyril­lic in the MA pro­jects?

I would say that there is only a mod­er­ate de­sire to cov­er Cyril­lic. If I had to spec­u­late why, I’d say that the re­l­at­ively healthy pro­duc­tion of typefaces from Rus­sia and Ser­bia, and in­creas­ingly Bul­garia (pos­sibly oth­er places, too) makes Cyril­lic less of a chal­lenge in re­search terms.

As for the work of MATD gradu­ates in Cyril­lic, I do not think I have the ex­pert­ise to voice my opin­ion. When a stu­dent wants to cov­er Cyril­lic, I am primar­ily in­ter­ested in how they pro­pose to build the right skills them­selves: you want a stu­dent to have a sol­id re­search-based ap­proach, and to build a meth­od­o­logy that will al­low them to build skills for any script.

From a design point of view, I think that the three European scripts—Lat­in, Cyril­lic and Greek—are a su­perb les­son in de­vel­op­ing con­sist­ent ty­po­graph­ic iden­tit­ies from very dif­fer­ent fun­da­ment­als.

We try to sup­port the scripts the stu­dents do with reg­u­lar feed­back by rel­ev­ant ex­perts. Cyril­lic has been one of the most dif­fi­cult to find good sup­port for, partly be­cause of the very small num­ber of suit­able ex­perts who are res­id­ent in the UK or per­mit­ted to work here. The way we teach re­quires re­peated con­tact, which is even more dif­fi­cult. Un­for­tu­nately the cost and visa situ­ation looks like it will get worse be­fore it gets bet­ter.

What is your take on Cyril­lic? Have you en­countered the opin­ion that it is an ali­en script in com­par­is­on to Greek and Lat­in?

My own in­terest in Cyril­lic is from the point of view of a script shared by dif­fer­ent cul­tures that seek to ex­press a ty­po­graph­ic iden­tity, of com­munit­ies of de­sign­ers with very dif­fer­ent back­grounds, and as an ex­ample of a script with a con­stantly de­vel­op­ing ty­po­graph­ic rep­er­toire.

From a design point of view, I think that the three European scripts are a su­perb les­son in de­vel­op­ing con­sist­ent ty­po­graph­ic iden­tit­ies from very dif­fer­ent fun­da­ment­als. In the Cyril­lic, you have a de­gree of in­ten­tion­al form-mak­ing, and a com­bin­a­tion of ele­ments that re­quire a deep un­der­stand­ing of the script struc­ture, with a very spe­cif­ic his­tory of ad­apt­a­tion to his­tor­ic­al mod­els.

In the Lat­in you have a very high de­gree of form­al uni­form­ity and a gram­mar that has formed over cen­tur­ies to al­low the widest range of con­fig­ur­a­tions, but a fairly nar­row scope for in­nov­a­tion. This, in my view, makes it pos­sible to achieve mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful (and slightly bor­ing) designs eas­ily, but makes in­nov­a­tion more dif­fi­cult. Greek is at the oth­er end of the scale, like an un­con­nec­ted Ar­ab­ic: it has east­ern scribal roots, a single writ­ing style at its roots, and is based around coun­ters and loops, rather than strokes. Put all three to­geth­er, and you’ve got a su­perb les­son in typeface design.

Your pro­gramme, as op­posed to t]m, in­cludes a large amount of ana­lyt­ic­al re­search: the stu­dents con­duct field stud­ies and write a com­pre­hens­ive es­say as part of their fi­nal pro­ject. What are the ad­vant­ages of this ap­proach?

In this, Read­ing is not only dif­fer­ent to KABK, but to any course that is situ­ated in an art school. All the courses in the Ty­po­graphy De­part­ment at Read­ing are in­formed by us be­ing part of a re­search-in­tens­ive uni­versity (and, in­deed, a very highly rated one). Typefaces do not ex­ist in a va­cu­um: they take form and mean­ing be­cause they are re­sponses to many oth­er typefaces that ex­ist already, and to chan­ging con­di­tions of use. Good re­search skills, and a suf­fi­cient un­der­stand­ing of ty­po­graph­ic his­tory and prac­tice, are es­sen­tial.

For ex­ample, how can a Rus­si­an de­sign­er cre­ate a good typeface for the Lat­in script, or Greek, or in­deed any­thing else—and vice versa? Surely just be­ing able to read the lan­guage is not enough, oth­er­wise any graph­ic de­sign­er who can move a Bez­i­er curve would be a good typeface de­sign­er. In­nov­a­tion re­quires a deep­er un­der­stand­ing of what it is you are in­nov­at­ing against: what is the com­mon po­s­i­tion that you are re-think­ing?

You are a fre­quent vis­it­or to ty­po­graph­ic con­fer­ences. Which pro­fes­sion­al events would you single out?

I have a soft spot for ATypI and hugely en­joy TypeCon. I also try to at­tend as many of the one-day and even­ing events at St Bride as I can (my fa­vour­ite loc­a­tion for type gath­er­ings in the UK). There is an in­creas­ing num­ber of UK events that make it very dif­fi­cult (and ex­pens­ive) to keep up: Ty­po­Circle, Ty­po­Lon­don, Point, events in Birm­ing­ham, and many more.

I am also very happy when I can at­tend smal­ler events like TypeTalks, where there is an op­por­tun­ity to meet many people. In re­cent years I have been talk­ing at events that are not tar­geted at ty­po­graph­ers and typeface de­sign­ers (like the tightly fo­cused Am­persand), which re­quire me to think more deeply what is rel­ev­ant from typeface design to oth­er fields. My second-fa­vour­ite events out­side the UK are in Po­land, which I find buzz­ing with activ­ity. And my top-of-the-list is the tri­en­ni­al ICTVC, which brings to­geth­er a very unique mix of spe­cial­ists.


What are the key dis­cus­sion top­ics in the ty­po­graph­ic world today, in your opin­ion?

There are three areas we are dis­cuss­ing in­tensely. Firstly, the glob­al­isa­tion of ty­po­graphy and typeface design. This means not only wide script cov­er­age, but also that de­sign­ers think about wide type fam­il­ies and typefaces that al­low ty­po­graph­ic dif­fer­en­ti­ation in scripts that have not had a de­veloped tra­di­tion for this. For ex­ample, start­ing with a script that un­til re­cently only had a low-mod­u­la­tion stroke (e.g. Oriya or Kan­nada), to de­vel­op a mod­u­lated dis­play style will re­quire a de­cision about the angle of stress and how it changes along the strokes. There are many dif­fer­ent pos­sible im­ple­ment­a­tions for this, and the struc­ture of the let­ters does not give ob­vi­ous an­swers. Con­versely, re­mov­ing the con­trast from a heav­ily mod­u­lated style may dis­tort the let­ter­form in un­ac­cept­able ways. These are hugely ex­cit­ing areas of in­tense in­nov­a­tion.

Secondly, some areas of ty­po­graphy are chan­ging rap­idly, mostly due to the re­think­ing of what the word “doc­u­ment” means in a world of smal­ler, user-re­spons­ive devices. In this en­vir­on­ment, the typefaces and the ty­po­graphy at the para­graph level be­come a key iden­ti­fi­er.

Thirdly, we are see­ing ty­po­graphy and typeface design matur­ing in­to a re­cog­nised dis­cip­line, with its own es­tab­lished lit­er­at­ure, nu­mer­ous edu­ca­tion path­ways, and a grow­ing un­der­stand­ing of its im­port­ance by the wider pub­lic. These three areas make work­ing in typeface design and ty­po­graphy today more ex­cit­ing than ever.


Gerry shows an ori­gin­al poster from the Olympic Games in Mu­nich (1972), cre­ated by de­sign­er Otl Aich­er.

How would you de­scribe the role of Gerard Unger on the course? How many hours does he spend with stu­dents?

Ger­ard is as cent­ral to the MATD as Fiona and my­self are. He vis­its six times a year, for four days each time. His classes cov­er a wide range of top­ics, which is in­stru­ment­al in shak­ing things up. He does not let stu­dents be sat­is­fied with something that is “just good enough”, and keeps push­ing them. Ger­ard is also ex­cep­tion­ally pa­tient and in­sight­ful when stu­dents are look­ing for in­spir­a­tion. He also con­trib­utes many lec­tures and looks after half of our field trip. I think that we have a very good bal­ance of in­flu­ence and com­ple­ment each oth­er well. We are good friends too.

The stu­dent pro­jects are primar­ily learn­ing tools. If the typefaces get pub­lished and have a com­mer­cial life of their own, then that’s a bo­nus!

Which guest lec­tur­ers have vis­ited the course lately? What sort of top­ics in­terest your stu­dents?

Many vis­it­ors con­trib­ute each year, in ad­di­tion to Mi­chael Twy­man’s twenty sem­inars, James Mos­ley’s sim­il­ar num­ber of lec­tures, and Victor Gaultney’s six all-day vis­its. This year we’ve had people do­ing work­shops, for ex­ample, Wayne Hart for two days on stone­cut­ting and Mar­tin An­drews on let­ter­press, vis­it­ing speak­ers like Richard Grasby, John Hud­son, Paul Barnes and Myra Thiessen, as well as guests run­ning multi-day ses­sions, like Tom Grace, Dav­id Břez­ina and Miguel Sousa. We also have speak­ers for all our MA pro­grammes in com­mon, like Dav­id Pear­son, Laurence Pen­ney, and about a dozen PhD re­search­ers present­ing their work.

What makes a suc­cess­ful MATD stu­dent pro­ject?

The stu­dent pro­jects are primar­ily learn­ing tools. The best pro­jects help the stu­dents be­come great typeface de­sign­ers, able to do ex­cep­tion­al typefaces after they leave Read­ing, and be great col­lab­or­at­ors. If the typefaces get pub­lished and have a com­mer­cial life of their own, then that’s a bo­nus.

There also stu­dents who do not go in­to type design: for them the pro­jects are learn­ing ex­per­i­ences of a dif­fer­ent kind, and there you need to fo­cus the pro­ject on what would be­ne­fit the stu­dent more. We’ve had people come to Read­ing with, say, ten years of soft­ware en­gin­eer­ing ex­per­i­ence, or twenty years of book design ex­per­i­ence. In such cases the ob­ject­ives are tailored to what would give those stu­dents a steep learn­ing curve, a good chal­lenge that is rel­ev­ant for their ca­reer.

And, in all cases, you want the gradu­ates to leave with a love for ty­po­graphy and typeface design, and with an open mind for them­selves and their dis­cip­line.

In your re­cent Ty­po­Ber­lin talk, you men­tioned that there is an in­creas­ing num­ber of Read­ing stu­dents from Ger­many. Is Ger­many, in your opin­ion, more ty­po­graph­ic­ally act­ive than oth­er coun­tries? Or could you say that in­terest is de­clin­ing in the UK?

We have al­ways had strong in­terest in the course from Ger­many, and it does seem to have in­creased in re­cent years. Ger­many is a unique mar­ket in Europe: it is not only ma­ture ty­po­graph­ic­ally, but also large enough to sus­tain its in­tern­al ty­po­graph­ic edu­ca­tion and pub­lish­ing in­dustry with no need to trans­late nat­ive texts, or seek to sell in oth­er coun­tries. At Ty­po­Ber­lin I was teas­ing the audi­ence a bit, so I will re­ph­rase my ques­tion as, “In a sat­ur­ated mar­ket, how can a young de­sign­er dis­tin­guish them­selves?” This is, to a grow­ing de­gree, a chal­lenge for new de­sign­ers in many oth­er coun­tries.

As for the UK, I do not think in­terest is de­creas­ing at all—on the con­trary, it is grow­ing. We see this at Bach­el­ors, Mas­ters, and PhD level. But the UK mar­ket is dif­fer­ent: it is very in­ter­na­tion­al in ex­port­ing skills and ser­vices, as well as in re­ceiv­ing tal­en­ted pro­fes­sion­als from oth­er coun­tries. In the cre­at­ive in­dus­tries, Lon­don is by far the most in­ter­na­tion­al city in Europe. Al­though cit­ies like Ber­lin at­tract a lot of self-em­ployed de­sign­ers (mostly due to the lower cost of liv­ing), it is Lon­don that has the busi­ness turnover.

The tech­no­lo­gic­al as­pect of type pro­duc­tion has been de­vel­op­ing rap­idly over the last ten years. Nowadays, a good type de­sign­er is of­ten also a good pro­gram­mer. How did this af­fect your teach­ing ap­proach and how has the prac­tic­al meth­od­o­logy changed?

The ex­pect­a­tions from type de­sign­ers on the tech­nic­al level have in­creased in re­cent years, but gradu­ally, and not fun­da­ment­ally. There’s more to learn, and some stuff may seem more com­plex, but noth­ing is pro­hib­it­ive for entry in the pro­fes­sion—you don’t need a de­gree in com­put­ing. This means that a mo­tiv­ated graph­ic de­sign­er can eas­ily pick up the train­ing to shift to type design. This is sim­il­ar to de­sign­ers hav­ing to learn to work in pro­pri­et­ary markup lan­guages, such as SGML, XML and so on—it’s noth­ing new. The in­tens­ity of the com­ments on this is more re­veal­ing of the com­ment­at­ors’ short memor­ies, rather than any deep­er shift. Type foundries are full of tech­nic­ally very com­pet­ent people who learned through on­line re­sources, and short work­shops. So, I think this is something of a non-is­sue: de­sign­ers have al­ways had to learn about the tech­no­logy of their field, and it nev­er was at uni­versity-level.

The real chal­lenge, where there has been a fun­da­ment­al change in type design, in­volve the ex­pan­sion of skills in­to non-Lat­in scripts. The level of know­ledge re­quired there to pro­duce com­pet­ent designs is not with­in the realm of the self-edu­cated. The re­search and in­ter­pret­a­tion skills that a new de­sign­er would need to tackle un­fa­mil­i­ar scripts are simply not pos­sible to de­vel­op on your own. And, un­for­tu­nately, for many scripts we do not have yet widely avail­able re­sources to sup­port this. This area is lead­ing the el­ev­a­tion of typeface design from a craft-based activ­ity to a pro­fes­sion with a re­cog­nised body of know­ledge and skills. We are still at the very be­gin­ning of this pro­cess, but in an­oth­er ten years this will seem too ob­vi­ous to men­tion.

Be­cause there is no frame­work (in Rus­sia) for stu­dent loans or suit­able schol­ar­ships, stu­dents rely on per­son­al or fam­ily fin­ances. This is just crazy, and dis­crim­in­ates heav­ily against people with tal­ent!

What are the ca­reer pro­spects of today’s Read­ing gradu­ates?

Many are em­ployed in type foundries, like Dalton Maag, Font­s­mith or Hoe­fler & Co. A good num­ber work for Mono­type, Adobe and Mi­crosoft. Quite a few work as in­di­vidu­al freel­an­cers, pub­lish­ing through oth­er foundries. It is im­port­ant to men­tion Type-To­geth­er and Rosetta Type, two foundries foun­ded by our gradu­ates (Ver­onika Buri­an and José Scagli­one, and Dav­id Břez­ina re­spect­ively—ed.) with con­sid­er­able growth. About a third have some en­gage­ment with teach­ing—either full-time or part-time, and this is grow­ing as gradu­ates want to add vari­ety to their ca­reers. As type design schools grow in num­ber, this will con­tin­ue to rise. And about a third re­turn to graph­ic design work while do­ing a bit of type design.

Why do you think Rus­si­an type design stu­dents prefer Hol­land to Eng­land? Is it merely a ques­tion of fin­ances?

You’d have to ask them, but my im­pres­sion is that the fin­an­cial dif­fer­ence is over­whelm­ing for a Rus­si­an ap­plic­ant. And be­cause there is no frame­work for stu­dent loans or suit­able schol­ar­ships, stu­dents rely on per­son­al or fam­ily fin­ances. This is just crazy, and dis­crim­in­ates heav­ily against people with tal­ent.

How would you un­der­line the main dif­fer­ences between the Read­ing and KABK MA pro­grammes?

Why com­pare with the KABK, and not Porto or Eina, or FADU-UBA or Gestalt? In the re­cent ex­hib­i­tion of stu­dent work at the Am­persand con­fer­ence there were well over thirty in­sti­tu­tions rep­res­en­ted. So your ques­tion is mis­lead­ing, as if there are only two places to study type design.

Now, spe­cific­ally about the dif­fer­ence between Read­ing and the KABK: we are not an art school, but a uni­versity pro­gramme, in a de­part­ment with a range of re­lated pro­grammes, and forty years’ in­sti­tu­tion­al ex­per­i­ence of PhD and staff re­search in ty­po­graphy. Our stu­dents read and dis­cuss at a high level, and con­duct re­search in type design that is of­ten ground-break­ing.

They work on typefaces that get them design jobs, pro­duce aca­dem­ic works that get them teach­ing jobs, and help oth­er de­sign­ers as well. When they gradu­ate, they pub­lish prop­er type spe­ci­mens and dis­ser­ta­tions that have weight and con­tent, not eph­em­er­al posters. These are our strengths. World­wide, the trend in type design edu­ca­tion is to emu­late what we do.

Sophia Safaeva
Sophia Safaeva

Film dir­ect­or, stud­ied on the MATD course in 2005-2006

I am some­times asked if I re­gret the fact I stud­ied at Read­ing, see­ing that I’m in cinema now. I reply that I don’t. I have en­countered some sim­il­ar­it­ies between the pro­fes­sions. A dir­ect­or works on a film in its en­tirety, pay­ing at­ten­tion to every as­pect of it. A type de­sign­er cre­ates a uni­fied typeface, pay­ing at­ten­tion to each let­ter.

Con­sid­er­ing my stud­ies ended 8 years ago, it’s hard to talk about them in de­tail, es­pe­cially giv­en my cur­rent non-type back­ground. I re­mem­ber the fant­ast­ic work eth­ic of the teach­ers on the course and their de­sire to help stu­dents with the in­tens­ive pro­gramme.

The stu­dent group was in­ter­na­tion­al, and my coursemates had vari­ous pro­fes­sion­al ex­per­i­ence, al­though in one way or an­oth­er they were all con­nec­ted with the visu­al arts.


Could you give us a list of “Gerry Le­oni­das re­com­mends” books that no type de­sign­er/ty­po­graph­er should live without?

This is a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer without some lim­its on time, or some idea of the ex­per­i­ence of the read­er. There are 14 key top­ics we dis­cuss on the MATD, and I se­lect texts for each de­pend­ing on the ideas we want to dis­cuss. In that sense, a book or art­icle that is con­tro­ver­sial might be more use­ful in the en­vir­on­ment of a struc­tured, guided dis­cus­sion. But the same text might be mis­lead­ing if someone reads it on their own without point­ers. (I am slowly put­ting the lists for these sem­inars on­line.)

I also nev­er in­clude books like Robert Bring­hurst’s Ele­ments of Ty­po­graph­ic Style or Philip Meggs’ His­tory of Graph­ic Design—titles like these are on every de­sign­er’s book­shelves, and to in­clude them would re­peat the ob­vi­ous. And I don’t in­clude some tar­geted titles, like Cyr­us High­s­mith’s very good In­side Para­graphs, be­cause I prefer to dis­cuss spa­cing along­side Tracy and Dowding’s meth­ods (re­fer­ring to Wal­ter Tracy’s Let­ters of Cred­it, and the es­say Finer Points in the Spa­cing & Ar­range­ment of Type—ed.), as well as ob­jects: a page of Didot and a screen of In­stapa­per with Nicole Dot­in’s Elena se­lec­ted.

So, which texts? I’ve got a list for in­com­ing MA stu­dents on the new Typeface Design site, which I think is a pretty good start­ing point. It also in­cludes some com­ments on magazines and blogs that form an es­sen­tial part of a ty­po­graph­ic de­sign­er’s ho­ri­zon. I oc­ca­sion­ally up­date the list­ing, but prefer to have items that have proven their value, rather than the latest title.

List of educational institutions with type design courses (compiled by Gerry Leonidas):

  1. University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal
  2. Eina, Barcelona, Spain
  3. FADU-UBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  4. KABK, The Hague, The Netherlands
  5. Gestalt, Veracruz, Mexico
  6. Atelier national de recherche typographique (ANRT), Nancy, France
  7. ESAD, Amiens, France
  8. Type@Cooper, New York, United States
  9. ZhdK, Zurich, Switzerland
  10. ECAL, Lausanne, Switzerland


Mi­chael Twy­man, (1934-) – Pro­fess­or Emer­it­us of ty­po­graphy and visu­al com­mu­nic­a­tion at the Uni­versity of Read­ing, au­thor of sev­er­al works on the his­tory of ty­po­graphy and the art of litho­graphy, graph­ic design re­search­er – Ed.

James Mos­ley – lib­rar­i­an at the St Bride Print­ing Lib­rary (Lon­don, 1958-2000), ty­po­graphy his­tor­i­an, au­thor of nu­mer­ous es­says, re­views and mono­graphs on the his­tory of print­ing and ty­po­graphy. Lec­tures at the Uni­versity of Read­ing, as well as for courses in Ly­on and Char­lottes­ville, among oth­ers. Writes ty­po­graphy blog Typefoundry. – Ed.

Ger­ard Un­ger (1942-) – Dutch graph­ic and type de­sign­er. Stud­ied at the Ri­etveld Academie in Am­s­ter­dam 1963-1967. Pro­fess­or of ty­po­graphy at Leiden Uni­versity and a vis­it­ing pro­fess­or at the Uni­versity of Read­ing. Has worked as a freel­ance de­sign­er since 1972, design­ing a great num­ber of post­age stamps, lo­gos, cor­por­ate iden­tit­ies, books, magazines and ex­hib­i­tion cata­logues. Au­thor of While You’re Read­ing, a book on the philo­sophy of read­ing which has been trans­lated in­to sev­er­al European lan­guages. – Ed.

Vic­tor Gault­ney – me­di­ev­al­ist, ex­pert on math­em­at­ics and the mu­sic of the Middle Ages and Renais­sance, gradu­ated from the MATD course in 2002. Prize win­ner at buk­va:raz! and TDC with with mul­ti­lin­gual pro­ject SIL. – Ed.